Week 4: Petrified Forest

Locations: San Bernardino, CA; Flagstaff, AZ; Petrified Forest National Park, AZ; Albuquerque, NM


Dates: 9/8/96-9/14/96

I spent most of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday gaming with Ananda and Sam, mostly out in the mountains around SB. Decided to delay leaving for Albuquerque until evening on Tuesday, because Clive and Tiffany had said the desert heat on the first leg of the trip made daytime driving prohibitive.

So I figured I'd leave a little before 7, drive through the night, and arrive in ABQ sometime Wednesday. As it turned out, once I got through eastern CA the temperatures were fine; it would probably be fun to drive through there sometime when there's enough light to see the desert landscape. I briefly considered a major side trip to Las Vegas, having never been there, but decided I didn't really want to go there anyway; would be more fun when not in a rush and when with someone who knows more about gambling than I do. Also when I'm not trying to conserve money.

Drove on east along Interstate 40, paralleling the old Route 66. Speed limit these days is 75 mph, and there was no traffic except for trucks. At one point I stopped by the side of the road to look at the stunning expanse of stars overhead—I've never seen that many before, crisp and bright in the sky. I even tried taking a photo (my point-and-click camera automatically holds the shutter open longer in low-light situations) by placing the camera on top of the car, facing up, to keep it still. (The picture didn't come out at all, alas. I know next to nothing about photography; don't know if there was some way I could've made this work.)

Around 2:30 am, I realized that I was still five hours from ABQ, that I was getting sleepy, and that I had a sudden urge to visit the Grand Canyon. I found a Travelodge not too far off I-40, woke up the woman who ran it, and checked in. I don't want to make a habit of staying in motels, but I did sleep far better than I would've at a rest stop. Until 10, anyway, when the front desk called to tell me they were about to shut off the hot water and if I wanted a shower I'd better take one immediately.

Petrified stump at tourist stop
Petrified stump at tourist stop

After getting up, I learned that the Grand Canyon was an hour and a half away. I figured that either I'd drive there, take a couple pictures, and leave—three long hours of driving for one short snap of a canyon—or that I'd want to stay all day and wouldn't make it past Flagstaff that day. Neither of those plans sounded like a good idea, so I drove on. At some point I stopped at a roadside tourist shop to look at their petrified wood.

Stopped at Meteor Crater National Landmark, but wasn't willing to pay the $8 admission to look at what sounded like a big hole in the ground. So when I reached Petrified Forest National Park, I decided I had plenty of time to stop there and look around for half an hour. (One of the goals of the trip has long been to take interesting-looking side roads, rather than worrying about getting to specific destinations at specific times. Unfortunately, so far I'd rushed to get almost everywhere, due to a combination of bad planning on my part and other people's plans and schedules changing abruptly.)

Raven at Petrified Forest
Raven at Petrified Forest

I'd visited a petrified forest with Beth in northern CA in '95, and enjoyed it a lot, so this seemed likely to be worth checking out. At the visitor's center, I discovered that the park contained 28 miles of road providing access to at least a dozen sites and scenic views; I began to revise my time estimate, figuring I'd spend an hour or so looking at the first couple of sites.

The first site provided a spectacular vista of red and brown rock as far as the eye could see. I was stunned.


I wound up spending two or three hours in the park, visiting maybe half the sites. I saw almost no petrified rock, but the views were well worth the time spent. I took something like 18 photos there, having taken only about 30 on the entire trip up to that point.

Petrified log bridge
Petrified log bridge

Arrived in ABQ Wednesday evening, and adjusted my watch to local time (I'd forgotten that AZ doesn't do daylight savings time, so I spent a while being confused about where the time zone boundary was). Spent the next couple of days hanging out with Rob, watching movies, eating good Italian food, and generally relaxing. Took a roll of film to be developed, ran some errands (finally obtained a Swiss army knife, after a month of half-heartedly trying to find one to replace the one I'd lost), got plane tickets to take me back to the Bay Area for my high school reunion in early October.

Early Saturday morning, Rob and I took a cab to the airport and got on a plane for Austin, to spend the next few days with Rob's brother Jamie.

Movies, Books, etc.

Partners in Wonder, Harlan Ellison et al.
Collaborations with other writers. A couple tres cool stories, mostly just okay.
Some great parts, some boring parts. The parts with Meg Ryan were the best.
Rumble in the Bronx
Lots of fun, if you don't care about details. Jackie Chan does what Buster Keaton would've done if he'd known Kung Fu.
I liked it better than the book, but the book is my least favorite Jane Austen so far. Not nearly as good as the other recent Austen movies.

(Last updated: 24 December 1996.)

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